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Thrift Store Profiles

I don’t blog about it too much because it’s a tad odd and I’m trying not to scare off readers, but I have been selling rare books online for 10 years.  It is a bit like a treasure hunt and allows me to run into the most bizarre people–some of them rather frightening–others surprisingly engaging.

I hunt a great deal at a variety of thrift stores in my town, and, in doing so, have become a tangential part of the “thrift store underground.”  I’m known as “that book girl” or “that book lady” depending on the age of the commenter.

I’ve gotten quite tight with a heavy-lidded weight-lifting woman whose eye makeup rivals Ann Coulter’s, and who used to own her own carpet cleaning business that was “stolen” by an ex-husband who set her up to be busted on a coke charge.  Tanya won’t let me walk to my car alone if “Crazy Elise,” who is 65 at least but dresses like she’s still following Jerry with purple hair streaks and exaggeratingly stenciled eyebrows (Joan Crawford), is milling about the parking lot, hitting up people for rides or handouts.

I’ve prayed with John, a 60-something quadriplegic whose world is relegated to the sidewalks that border his section 8 housing.  His story involves incredible faith, a failed business and an attempt at finding some way to make ends meet on his meager disability check.

Collins is a 50-something thrift store worker–a funny, leprechaunesque Irish fellow who can barely read but will save books back for me with childlike enthusiasm in the hopes that they are great treasures.

Larry is a rangy ex-Vietnam vet who rarely finishes a sentence without mentioning faith or the Holy Spirit; he manages one of the thrift stores and sells old war memorabilia at local flea markets.

Barbara is 45 but looks 55; her fiance was killed by a tractor trailer that crushed him while he was fixing his delivery truck.  She had become a mother to his son, aged 8, who was thrown out of the house by his own mother, an admitted meth addict.  The dear mother went back to court recently to fight Barbara for custody but, in an unprecedented move,  the judge gave the child to Barbara permanently.  She has made sure he attended school and completed his homework, and for the first time ever, he is on the honor role.  Barbara’s faith is contagious and she has brought her new son to know Christ as well.  She is a “tee-totaler” but will partake of a “hot toddy” when she feels a cold coming on.

Debbie’s daughter has five children and a bad meth habit.  I met the daughter briefly once when she came to hit up Debbie for money–four children crammed into the back seat of an old Buick with no car seats.  Debbie wanted to retire but needs to work in an attempt to clothe and feed her grandchildren; she recently gained custody of one boy who is seven and failing kindergarten for the second time.  She and I discuss ADHD, homeschooling, reading intervention ideas and speech therapy.  Debbie drinks gallons of Mountain Dew to get through the day, always looks tired and is developing acute osteoporosis.

These people talk to me, share their stories, pour out their woes.  They have allowed me a glimpse into a part of society I would probably never have known much about.  Yet what is more fascinating is how they have accepted me into their culture.  Me with my minivan, my now-bobbed hair, my unfake purse

Now, lest you think it’s all inspiring stories and insight, last week a creepified 60-year-old man with a handlebar moustache began following me around the thrift store I’ve named “Crazy Cecil’s.”  His penetratingly evil eyes with no discernible pupils told me to beware.  He fixed on me and began a deluge of questions on faith and Christianity.  He berated Christians, asserting that his own mother loved him to no end and thought Christianity was “bunk” and if she had thought there was something to it, she would have told him.  I suggested he read the Bible and see for himself, at which point he began regaling on UFOs, his own abduction escapades, and the extraterrestrials’ plans to abduct people like me.

I headed out of that place.  My life is complicated enough at the moment.

Posted on 6 March '09 by , under Faith is the Evidence, Humor/Disconnected Miscellany.

11 Comments to “Thrift Store Profiles”

#1 Posted by Tari (06.03.09 at 00:37 )

Great stories – glad you shared them

Taris last blog post..Let Them Eat Cake

#2 Posted by Tonggu Momma (06.03.09 at 08:43 )

This was FASCINATING! Although I really, really want to see a picture of Crazy Elise now…

Tonggu Mommas last blog post..What’s Her Name?

#3 Posted by goodfountain (06.03.09 at 09:34 )

We wander the Thrift Store frequently in our neighborhood and always see some, um, interesting peeps. I wish I took the time to get know some of them more. But with keeping 2 small ones under my eye, I don’t get as much chance.

thanks for sharing those profiles.

And if you see a light up above, turn and runnnnnnn!!!

goodfountains last blog post..Few words Wednesday

#4 Posted by Elizabeth (06.03.09 at 11:11 )

I’d love to get a shot of Elise but I think it’s too risky…she’d try to cut me!

#5 Posted by Patty (06.03.09 at 11:28 )

Wow, you could totally write a book about your adventures and the people you have met. But, be careful!

Pattys last blog post..motherhood rites of passage: the er visit

#6 Posted by She (06.03.09 at 17:28 )

I’m so glad you shared this! What an awesome hobby!

And people really ARE remarkable, aren’t they? Just steer clear of the creepy ones!

#7 Posted by Rhemashope (07.03.09 at 00:37 )

You are a really good writer. In just a few sentences I felt like I was there in the thrift store. Truly touched by their stories – especially Barbara. It’s clear that they are a part of your life – you have taken the time to know them.

#8 Posted by elaine @ peace for the journey (07.03.09 at 00:42 )

I would love to follow you around for a day with a video cam. Can I just say that I love your style of writing?! You make me laugh; I wish I could write funny. I live funny; most people who read my blog think otherwise. “You’re so deep, elaine.” Only when I write…I promise.

Thanks for allowing me a peek into your crazy. I’m a people lover too!

peace in your weekend~elaine
PS: Part two of my last post is coming down at midnight.

elaine @ peace for the journeys last blog post..A Mother’s Plea for Purity…

#9 Posted by mrsbear (07.03.09 at 01:14 )

I love people watching. These stories are fascinating, the connections you’re making a boundless source of material. Just tell me your husband makes you carry pepper spray with you, you can never be too careful, that space cadet with the handlebar stache is a bit concerning. 🙁

mrsbears last blog post..Google Advice

#10 Posted by Elizabeth (07.03.09 at 11:49 )

Thanks to all for concern regarding my personal safety! I usually wear my running shoes!

#11 Posted by cbowman (13.03.09 at 22:16 )

This would make a great feature story for the paper. Such interesting people. You’ll have to publish it one day. 🙂

cbowmans last blog post..Relay for Dogs